A teenager is trying Charlie Health's intensive outpatient program for depression.

5 Reasons to Try Charlie Health’s Intensive Outpatient Program for Depression

Updated: November 24, 2023

6 min.

If you were recently discharged from inpatient depression treatment or are looking for extra support managing a depressive disorder, Charlie Health is here to help.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process


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The teenage years can be incredibly challenging, and it’s normal for young people to experience bouts of irritability, fatigue, and sadness. However, when symptoms last for two weeks or more, it could signal depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 20% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States, or about five million teens, experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2021—a number that’s steadily increased in recent years.

Without treatment, depression can take a serious toll, disrupting a person’s ability to carry out daily activities and connect with others. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable, with most treatment plans including psychotherapy, medication management, or a combination of the two. While traditional once-weekly talk therapy can help some people with depression, others who need extra support might want to consider an intensive outpatient program (IOP). This treatment option allows people to maintain their routine while receiving more intensive support but doesn’t offer round-the-clock care like inpatient treatment or a residential treatment program. 

Whether you or your loved one is seeking additional mental health support to manage a depressive disorder, here are five reasons to consider an IOP for depression (plus details on how Charlie Health’s IOP can help teens and young adults with depression).

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Five reasons to consider IOP for depression

An IOP is ideal for people who need more support than those with mild depression symptoms but aren’t in a high-acuity mental health crisis. It’s also beneficial for people not seeing desired results or depression symptom reduction from weekly therapy sessions. Here, we delve into five reasons to consider IOP for depression.

1. Teens can maintain social support during treatment

Isolation and loneliness can negatively impact the recovery process, and research shows social support from close friends and family members can make all the difference during mental health treatment. Although teens need to dedicate time to treatment after enrolling in an IOP for depression, they’ll still be able to spend time at school and hang out with friends throughout the recovery process. If you’re the friend of someone in an IOP, support may look like inviting them to participate in hobbies together or offering to come over at a convenient time to do homework together. 

2. Parents can offer emotional support during treatment 

When it comes to personal issues, especially mental health, many teenagers find it difficult to open up about their problems. In some situations, mental health stigma might lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment. However, talking about mental health issues at home can help ensure long-term recovery. If you’re the parent or caregiver of someone in an IOP for depression, it’s essential to pay attention to your teen’s mood and find opportunities to check in—even if they find it difficult to talk about their feelings.

With that said, parents and caregivers should avoid prying into their teen’s treatment or asking intrusive questions about their progress: it’s best to let your teen open up to you as they feel comfortable. Throughout their IOP, listen to your teen, acknowledge their feelings, and offer your unconditional support—even when times get tough. The best way to support your teen through treatment is to set aside some time each day to talk. During this time, you should focus all of your attention on your teen without any distractions. If you have any previous experiences with individual counseling or mental health concerns, consider opening up about these experiences to your teen to show them that it’s okay not to be okay.

3. IOP can fit into your schedule (not vice versa) 

In an IOP, a young person won’t have to uproot their daily routine to spend time at a treatment facility, which can be disruptive and further exacerbate feelings of stress and isolation associated with depression. Many IOPs also offer flexible schedules, including evening and weekend sessions, so teenagers don’t have to miss out on school or extracurricular activities to enjoy high-quality care. At Charlie Health, our expert clinicians work with every client to make sure treatment is accessible and convenient for them.

Plus, with virtual IOP programs, teens can access mental health treatment even if they don’t live near a treatment facility, and they won’t have to rely on their parents to drive them to and from therapy appointments. Charlie Health’s innovative video-based treatment options provide a safe, convenient option for our clients to access comprehensive treatment—all from the comfort and privacy of home. Teenagers and family members can access quality care using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

A young teen is in Charlie Health's IOP for depression since it fits into his schedule (not vice versa).

4. Teens can build a sense of community

With typical outpatient treatment programs, group therapy might not be available, as many therapists only offer individual therapy services. In an IOP, though, group therapy programming is a cornerstone of treatment, giving teens a valuable opportunity to connect with other adolescents and young adults dealing with similar mental health struggles. Typically led by a mental health professional, these groups of 5 to 15 people are organized based on conditions (e.g., depression or anxiety) or general topics (e.g., social skills or coping with loss). At Charlie Health, we place clients in groups based on their mental health considerations, preferences, backgrounds, and experiences to create supportive, healing treatment groups.

Although group therapy might seem intimidating, studies show that sessions can be an effective and extremely rewarding component of mental health treatment for teens. During group sessions, members can share their experiences with specific mental health issues, learn helpful coping strategies, work on their interpersonal skills, and develop support networks to deal with tough times, research shows. In an IOP for depression, your teen will be able to meet new people who genuinely understand what they’re going through. 

A teenager is in a virtual group therapy session after his caregiver learned why her teen should enroll in group therapy.

Why Your Teen Should Enroll in Group Therapy

Charlie Health Editorial Team


Group therapy plays an important role in reducing stigma, providing invaluable insights, and being challenged to make changes. It also encourages active participation in the therapy process that won’t always shine through during individual therapy. Some of the best feedback IOP patients will receive will likely come from their peers, not just their clinicians. As a result, group sessions can be invaluable for long-term treatment success.

5. IOP offers comprehensive, individualized treatment plans

If you’re navigating treatment options for the first time, it might seem like there’s no option between once-weekly therapy sessions, emergency room visits, or inpatient programs. Whether you’re searching for the middle ground between inpatient and outpatient treatment or you’re searching for a higher level of care for your teen, an IOP can help you establish an appropriate treatment plan. 

Charlie Health’s virtual IOP fills this gap, offering personalized, intensive treatment plans for every client. Unlike other programs, we don’t just treat the symptoms of depression (and other mental health conditions); we focus on treating the whole person to promote holistic, long-term healing. For instance, our IOP combines evidence-based treatment modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills, and mindfulness practices, to create a unique treatment plan for each client. 

What depression treatment looks like at Charlie Health’s IOP

As mentioned, Charlie Health’s virtual IOP offers higher support and structure than once-weekly therapy, with multiple sessions conducted throughout the week for a total of 9 to 11 hours of therapy sessions. These sessions consist of individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. This combination makes for a comprehensive treatment plan for people with depression. In Charlie Health’s IOP, a typical treatment plan for depression involves:

  • 1 hour of individual therapy every week
  • 1 to 2 hours of family therapy every week
  • 3 hours of group therapy sessions per day, held 3 days a week 
  • Medication management as needed

Depression treatment with Charlie Health

If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with a depressive disorder, Charlie Health is here to help. Our virtual intensive outpatient program is an ideal depression treatment option for people recently discharged from inpatient treatment or those who need more support than traditional outpatient therapy. Charlie Health’s expert clinicians are here to listen to your concerns and craft a personalized treatment plan that includes group sessions, individual counseling, family therapy, and medication management as needed. Healing from depression is possible. Fill out this free assessment to get started with Charlie Health today.

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